Let Us Now Praise Philly Dive Bars

A photographic ode to nine classic watering holes.

It seems like every weekend there’s a new craft-beer bar opening in the spot where some smoky old watering hole used to be, or a freshly buffed-up pub transforming a neglected neighborhood corner. The trend is emblematic of a larger — and largely positive — transformation in which gritty, faded, forgotten Old Philly is being reincarnated into bright and sprightly New Philly. Fair enough. But change — even good change — has always made Philadelphians dig our heels in and cling just a little harder to the unchanging. Who can blame us? Last year brought the probable end of Little Pete’s and the inauspicious opening of a Cheesecake Factory. Sometimes Old Philly should win. Which is why it’s time now to pay tribute to some of the stalwarts. The holdouts that have evaded the reign of the $20 bar burger. Those scrappy, dark taprooms where no barkeep has ever worn a bowtie, where nobody asks for extra bitters, where you can show up at 12 noon or 12 midnight and enjoy the High Life (or a Citywide Special). We spotlight the bars we passionately hope never get remade into coolly polished pubs. Because change is good, and so is craft beer, but nothing replaces the timeless draw of the dive.

Photography by Gene Smirnov


Tattooed Mom

DiveBars_01-940x540-Opener

530 South Street
Established 1997


McGlinchey’s

Untitled-1MCGLINCHEY-940x540

259 South 15th Street
Established 1937


Donna’s Bar

Untitled-1-DONNAS

2732 East Allegheny Avenue
Established 1981


Fiume

DiveBars_02-540-Fiume

229 South 45th Street
Established 2001


Bob and Barbara’s

Untitled-1-940x540-BobandBarb3

Untitled-1-940x540-BobandBarbaras

Untitled-1-940x540-BobandBarbaras1

1509 South Street
Established 1968


Atlantis: The Lost Bar

DiveBars_14-940x540-Atlantis

2442 Frankford Avenue
Established 2004


Doobies

Untitled-1-940x540-Doobies

2201 Lombard Street
Established 1976


Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar

DiveBars_17-940x540-Rays1

DiveBars_20-940x540-Rays2

DiveBars_07-940x540-Rays3

Untitled-1-940x540-Rays4

1200 East Passyunk Avenue
Established 1938


Dirty Frank’s

DiveBars_22-DirtyFranks

347 South 13th Street
Established 1933

Published as “Let Us Now Praise Philly Dive Bars” in the February 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.


IN THIS SECTION